Saturday, August 18, 2018


As the July 30th blog entry indicated, I tore apart the layout and decided to rearrange some portions of it in the hopes of adding staging. All the rolling stock was moved to the undisturbed Camden Pavonia Yard. Fortunately it holds over 125 cars by itself.

Three of the four end sections were removed, The right leg (Westville) was moved to the left middle. The previous middle (Woodbury) is now the right middle. Nine track staging (for both ends) is planned to now occupy the vacated right wall.

I have started connecting the Westville leg with the undisturbed Philly-Manayunk section.

Ten layout legs have been shortened (8 more to go). Looks like I’ll need:
  • Another sheet of plywood
  • (8) 2x3s, 
  • (4) 1x3s, 
  • and another 10 turnouts
Whose idea was this anyway?  😕

S Scale

I got to revisit Bill Lane's S Scale layout again and once again got to drool over the engines he has built or rebuilt.

Baldwin AS-16

Pennsy B6 backed up by a K4 and another B6

String of Pennsy Geeps (and boosters)

Reading Atlantic

Some of Bill's new express reefers

REA depot

Woodbury's Ace Motor Company

A theater named for Woodbury's movie house

Monday, July 30, 2018

Operators Taking the Summer Off!

Southwestern New Jersey seems somewhat devoid of N Scale model railroaders. Putting together a reliable operating crew is somewhat challenging. You want to find folks who are somewhat compatible in interests and behavior (ex: civilized, non-smoking, non-cussing, and semi-rational :-) ). (I am becoming more and more convinced that many model railroaders cross that last barrier.)

I found one of my regular crew of four from the Railwire forum, one from the forum (who brought a friend) and one locally. Two of them travel about 80 miles to join me and that is asking a lot. Another travels about 20 miles, the fourth is local. I have access to occasional substitutes but both come from distances across the Delaware River (on the Pennsylvania frontier).

I do seasonal work for a tax preparation company which wipes out my playtime schedule about 4 months (mid-January to mid-April) of every year and impacts another 2 months (mid-November to mid-January). That leaves 6 months, of which Summer consumes 3 months. One of my regulars lives at the Jersey shore and loves boating, another likes to ride his tricycle on sunny weekends, and a third seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth (probably dealing with family issues). One of the part-timers does teleprompting for corporations and politicians. That is his only income so trains, of necessity take a back seat.

So I am off and I can't put together an operating crew. Building kits is becoming less fun due to increasingly shaky hands. 

An idle mind finds ways to get into trouble. So a significant portion of the layout went from this:

To this:

Why you might ask (possibly remembering the "non-rational" quote above)? Many reasons:
* No operating crew and nothing to do
* Boredom (the layout was approaching that nearly completed state which leads to BOREDOM)
* The Millville/Deepwater ends needed staging and I had absolutely no way to squeeze it in.
* As I aged, the duck-under was becoming a pain in the neck back
* I wanted to start running 30-40 car coal drags, sand drags, and tanker trains (staging again) and yard capacity was limiting me to 20 or less.
* During operations, the Camden Pavonia yard was becoming overloaded and these changes will more evenly balance the workload between the two towers.

So left unattended I tore down several sections (Camden/Philly/Manayunk were not affected) and plan to make several changes which may or may not work.
* The Westville and Woodbury sections will be rearranged and placed back to back (and lowered)
* Staging for both ends will be along the wall Westville used to occupy.

There are costs to this attempt.
* I am at a standstill until I can get 3 more people to help me move the existing sections.
* Tighter curves (19" min radius to 15").
* The entrance end will have restricted aisle widths
* Westville will now fall under un-prototypical control of Brown Tower (Camden) instead of Red Oak Tower (Woodbury)
* A lot more work

I am uncharacteristically doing this without a detailed scaled plan. But if it doesn't work I'll change themes, do away with the Westville and Woodbury modules and just build a new non-PRSL railroad along the the other wall leaving the center of the room open. (The room certainly feels brighter and more friendly that way!)

The lesson from all this: "Never leave Rick alone with his idle (dangerous) mind."

Home Again!

The “family” has finally returned to home rails! Bob Neilson renumbered a few RS3s for me, relettered an Atlas VO-1000 to PRSL, and re-chassised an RS11.

Since we didn’t have a full operating crew available, the kids in us just decided to just string together (4) 25 to 40 car trains and run them together on 2 tracks for an hour. (Flawlessly except for a Bowser cabin that periodically decided to leave its train to become a snowplow on the following train.)

NTrainz1’s pair of U Boats (PC & Conrail) also won the pulling contest over my GP38s. Continuing the kid-in-us theme, the Fox Valley and Kato NS heritage units appeared pushing the layout’s time warp even further into the future.

(Now who is going to get those 100+ cars back where they belong (i.e. matching their car and waybill slots?))

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Re-Weathering the Fleet

Spent a couple of days re-weathering part of the fleet.

When you are colorblind you stick to pastels with the adjective "grimy" in front of them and hope it turns out for the best.

That Neolube 2 works great at darkening the wheels on the steam engines and makes the drivers look better by hiding their oversized flanges.

The Atlas GP38s are the only mass market PRSL engines I know of.
I have 5 and need to get 2 of them renumbered.

A BS12 for the PRSL

One of my regular operators and friend, Bob Neilson) has renumbered (to non-duplicate numbers) several of my PRR RS3s AND turned an Atlas VO-1000 into a Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines ~BS12 for me. (The photo is from his layout.)

A real PRSL BS12:

Atlas produced 2 different versions of the VO-1000, one made in Korea and the other in China. Here is one of each:

Gloucester County Historical Society - Open House March 2018

The local County Historical Society had an open house featuring trains (mostly HO from the Tyler (Mantua Metals) family collection). I was disappointed at the N scale table. It consisted of loose, collapsing sectional track pieces which wouldn’t even permit their old Bachman engine to transverse a quarter of the loop. So I loaned them one of the 2’x4’ Christmas tree displays I made for each of my 4 adult kid’s families. Now all they need is for someone to donate some old equipment that they can run. (The layouts are set up to run 2 trains in opposite direction from a single power pack.)  I also left them a stack of old Model Railroader magazines to give to each child (chronological or behavioral) interested. Hopefully we can generate some new modelers.

Late 1950s - A kid with a new hobby!

It was in the late 1950s and I had just discovered Model Railroader magazines in a new small hobby shop in a local strip mall. There it was in a window, eye height to a pre-teen. I had just gotten into the hobby and I had no idea what the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was but there stood an HO engine bearing their name in a beautiful multi-colored paint scheme. (Keep in mind I lived in PRSL territory with nothing but boxy, “black” Baldwin road switchers.) There was no way I could save up enough to afford it at the time but I always wanted one. Sixty years later I got the chance to acquire a used B&O geep in N scale. Ah Heaven!

Although I am downsizing my N & HO collections, I cannot resist a few beautiful engines that in no way fit my prototype. The WP geep I saw at a Rick Spano open house and fell in love with the look and I was always in love with GN & NP early paint schemes.

Wistful of the days long past!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The PRSL & Oysters - Part II

Following an extended period of prayer (with the needed assistance of reinforcements from the Gloucester and Camden county dioceses), the train has at long last been returned to normal and Eddie has been coaxed back into the cab ready to depart for Maurice River and Port Norris off the Manumuskin Junction.

Passing over Evergreen Avenue leaving South Woodbury and the city fathers breathe a sigh of relief.
There the reefers, RPO, and Baggage car will be filled to the brim with oysters. Buckets of iced oysters will be loaded into the overflow capacity of the purloined B60.


It is now evening and the cars loaded with oysters have found a ride back on local WY27 returning from Millville. Various restaurants along the way are meeting the train to snatch some LCL Oyster loads distributed from out of the B60, whose smell is now much worse than the way we found it!

What have we here? Looks like some LCL product is being passed out the door on the other side of the baggage car. Where did that sheep come from? Quick get it and put it back! With the gates raised multiple felons have to be involved in this mini-heist.

Our trip trough North Woodbury is uneventful. How quickly this morning’s harrowing events are forgotten.

30th street at night: The brass are not happy at the odors permeating their baggage car but on the plus side there are no spirits rocking the floor boards this time.

Off to the time portal, Mississippi bound. As always we will let the destination date set itself randomly.

(And if that derailed tank car under the station explodes, Philadelphia will be no more.)


PRSL vs. the Oysters - Part 3 - the Background:

The southern New Jersey Oyster Industry: The Native Americans in the area used oysters for food, decorations and even money for trade. The European settlers did likewise. Commercial oystering began around 1700 with repopulating the beds in high growth areas to maintain the supply.

When the railroad arrived in 1876 business boomed. Within 10 years the town of Bivalve was shipping 10 cars of oysters per day. Whole new towns grew up to support the industry. Oysters became the #1 fishery product in the United States. In 1880 harvest production peaked at over 2.4 million bushels. Over 500 boats and 4,000 people were involved in the process.

Both the CNJ and PRSL provided the rail transportation. The PRSL used R50 express reefers for fresh oysters and the B60 baggage cars, due to their large capacity interiors and wide doors, were used for canned oysters and ice packed shipments. During peak periods every kind of appropriate car available would be pressed into oyster service.

In 1957 the industry collapsed with a 90-95% mortality rate from MSX & Dermo diseases decimating the crops. Many of the supporting villages became ghost towns.

The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL): The Pennsy and the Reading had competed fiercely for dominance in southern NJ rail service but the depression had severely weakened both lines. The intrusion of the new-fangled automobile further decimated their passenger revenues. Southern New Jersey was in danger of losing all rail service so the state stepped in to force a shotgun merger in 1933. (The line maintained its identity until the formation of Conrail in 1976.)

The PRSL had its own engines but borrowed heavily from both parents for motive power during rush seasons. Most of the parent’s small to medium steam power went to finish their days on PRSL rails.

The PRSL & Oysters - Part I

The Railwire forum has a traveling PRR B60 baggage car. At each stop a photo shoot and fictional story needed to be posted. Here is my portion of the story, very loosely based on reality. 

It was late when B60 #9368 had the misfortune to be spotted in the 30th street station. It had just arrived through the time portal from Detroit. It was quickly welcomed to early 1951 and the Philadelphia/South Jersey region. Due to a shortage of PRR R50s, the PRSL (Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines) management folks have been scrounging for capacity to serve the peak of the Oyster season here in late January. Word was that a B60 had headed in on a passenger train from Detroit and due to some finagling and swapping of favors, a switcher had been surreptitiously dispatched to snatch it from the 30th street yard in Philly. 

It was quickly attached to an evening commuter train returning Philly workers to their homes in the rapidly expanding suburbs of southern New Jersey. (The P70s have recently returned from refurbishing at the Broughton car shops (@cbroughton67) in Louisville, Kentucky.)

In the 1950s the end of steam was rapidly approaching and most PRSL parent's (Pennsylvania RR and the Reading Company) small to middle sized steam was ending their days on PRSL rails.

Meanwhile the diligent peons in the PRSL’s main Pavonia Yard in Camden have purloined 2 brand new REX reefers to add to the train. Although the oyster industry has shrunk to 40% of its peak they were still moving 1 million bushels in 1950. (In another 7 years the MSX blight would wipe out the industry leaving several south Jersey villages as ghost towns.) 

Passing over Timber Creek we slow for the stop at the new small brick station serving Westville. The much more impressive 2 story station was torn down to make room for the concrete overpass needed to feed the growing interstate road system (I295) going through town. (Westville was known as the “Gateway to South Jersey” since the roads webbed in all directions after passing over Timber Creek.)

We notice the passengers tumbling out, some shrieking, as they depart more quickly than usual from the rear passenger cars. 

The process is repeated at the shelter stop in North Woodbury and Eddie is complaining about being bothered by spirits (of the non-alcoholic variety) 

It is too much for everyone when we reach Woodbury. The station master, a devote man of Romanish faith dispatched his assistant to run across the street to St. Pat’s and return with Father O’Malley. Being a priest adequately schooled in exorcism, he quickly is attracted to the B60 mumbling about “legions” of foul spirits.